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‘I only use cannabis to make me feel normal’

A CARMARTHEN man recently fined for possessing cannabis has told the Journal he will not give up the drug.

Brad Stephens, of Coronation Road, Carmarthen, pleaded guilty to possessing 1.1 grammes of cannabis and 4.6 grammes of cannabis resin when he appeared before Llanelli magistrates.

The 55-year-old, who says he uses the drug to free him from pain, shakes and spasms caused by the spinal condition cervical spondylosis, was slapped with £135 in fines and costs.

cannabis laws police oppressive medical healthThe court heard when police arrived at his door to carry out a search warrant he told them where to find the drugs and what he had.

Defence solicitor David Williams told magistrates Mr Stephens’s conditions were so severe he was prescribed with two forms of diamorphine and had recently been told that he would be on disability living allowance for the rest of his life.

His conditions include cervical spondylosis, the after effects of TB, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and migraines.

Mr Williams added: “Cannabis helps with his pain. His GP is aware he takes cannabis. His GP can’t condone it, but like many medical practitioners, my client’s GP is aware of the effect it can have for chronic pain.

“It is known that many people use cannabis for medical reasons.”

This week Mr Stephens told the Journal he will continue using the drug.

“Of course I would like to give it up,” he said.

“There are so many pluses to not taking it but when you’re in severe pain, you’ve got £10, and you know it’s going to get you five or six hours of pain relief, you are going to spend it.

“It seems like I’m never going to be able to come off it because I don’t want to be that person sitting in a chair in pain when there’s a medicine out there that can help me.

“I don’t want my children to see a shell of a man.

“I don’t know a way off it — I’m trapped.”

Mr Stephens wants the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes to be made legal.

At one hearing 10 years ago he successfully argued that he only smoked cannabis for medical reasons and magistrates in Carmarthen let him off.

“I won that court case in 2002 and I thought things were going to move forward,” he said. “I thought it would have been legal by now for medical use, if not recreational, with controls of course.

“A cannabis-based spray (Sativex) is used to treat MS sufferers and they suffer from the same symptoms.

“The nerve pain is similar, jumping, uncontrollable legs in spasms and moving on their own. Cannabis removes all that and it controls the pain to a level.” Mr Stephens said he had suffered with cervical spondylosis since 1982, and turned to cannabis in 1989.

“I was quite anti-drugs,” he said. “I met this chap who was telling me about the benefits of marijuana.

“As time went by I got sicker and sicker and then I met somebody who was able to get me some cannabis.

“It was like a miracle drug.

“Without cannabis I have no quality of life whatsoever.

“If I take cannabis I feel normal.

“I don’t believe it is addictive as a drug, but it is addictive to an ill person who has got no quality of life without it.

“I can’t get it in a legal form which I am not happy about.

“I’m not saying it’s for everybody and I’m not advocating for everybody to use it.”

Mr Stephens said his family had been effected by his use of the drug. “People have pointed the finger and isolated my family, they don’t want their children to associate with you,” he said.

“A stigma has been attached to me, they look at me as a drug baron or a dealer rather than an ill man. I have never dealt drugs myself.

“You watch your children being affected by it and it’s heartbreaking.”

Mr Stephens said he also lost his driving licence because he had been honest about his use of cannabis. “My driving licence was taken off me, I’ve never been able to get it back,” he said. “Cannabis stays in your system. I’ve been, for eight years, a prisoner in my home.

“If I was out like a wild man taking drugs and driving a car, I would have served my sentence and got my car back.”

He said despite his history with the police he had no grudge towards the officers who have arrested him.

“I believe we have got to have law and order, they are doing their job,” he added. “But I don’t believe anybody who is ill, in my condition, should be dragged into a court of law in a democracy in 2013.”

By Lee MacGregor

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